Schultze Gets The Blues (2003)—German
This film begins in a mine shaft in Saxon Germany and ends in the honky tonks on the Louisiana bayou. How the protagonist Schultze got from one place to the other, barely speaking any lines at all in almost two hours, and just what his journey symbolizes beyond mere geography, constitute the plot of this film.
Schultze and two of his buddies retire from the local salt mine, but after puttering in the garden and pestering their families, life as pensioners settles into the predictable monotony that we might expect in an insular subculture characterized by traditional polka music. Later he even stops forlornly in front of the mine on his bike. One kid sneers at the three old codgers, "I'll never be like that." The bachelor Schultze lives alone, but we learn from family photos that his father was a noted accordion player. Schultze is too, and one night on his little radio he hears some zydeco music, an accordion-based genre from Louisiana. He turns off the radio after a minute, then turns it back on, then pulls our his battered accordion and reproduces the tune. He can't sleep but stares at the ceiling because he can't get the music out of his head. He's hooked. This new musical passion gives Schultze a new lease on life, but dare he play such newfangled music in the land of polka? His friends urge him on despite petty detractors, and even send him to their sister city in Texas for their annual German music festival. There Schultze experiences a new joie de vivre, a new style of music, a new geography, and new friends—all without knowing any English.
Some people found this film plodding, but I loved its minimalist, slow-moving style through which we watch the endearing Schultze discover himself. The DVD case advertises that Schultze Gets The Blues has won awards at ten international film festivals, a remarkable feat considering that it is the first film by writer-director Michael Schorr. In German with English subtitles.